When the picture was finished Mr Elton thought it looked exactly like Harriet, but not everyone agreed.
‘The picture is a little too beautiful around the eyes,’ said Mrs Weston.
‘Not at all!’ replied Mr Elton. ‘Miss Smith is just as beautiful as Miss Woodhouse has painted her.’
Mr Knightley knew Emma very well and was always honest with her. He said, ‘You’ve made her too tall, Emma.’
‘Oh, no,’ said Mr Elton. ‘Not too tall. Exactly right in my opinion.’
That was when Emma first began to see the possibility of a match between them and had great hopes that it would happen. Then Harriet had started talking about Robert Martin and Emma worried that he might spoil her match-making plans.
The next day she met Harriet in Highbury village and heard some unwelcome news.
‘Miss Woodhouse,’ said a very excited Harriet, ‘Mr Martin has written to ask me to marry him!’
She showed Emma the letter and she agreed it was certainly a very good letter.
‘So good that I wonder whether his sister helped him to write it,’ she said.
‘How shall I reply?’ Harriet asked.
‘ I cannot tell you — it must be your own letter,’ Emma replied. ‘But I am sure you will write it so that he will not be too unhappy.’
‘So you think I should refuse him,’ said Harriet sadly, looking down.
‘I shall not advise you. This is something you must decide yourself
Harriet was silent. She looked at the letter again.’I had no idea he liked me so much,’ she said.
Emma decided she must speak to save Harriet from an unsuitable marriage.
‘Harriet, if you doubt your answer, of course you should refuse him. If you cannot say «yes» immediately you must say «no».’
‘Then I will refuse. Do you think I am right?’
‘Perfectly, dearest Harriet. And remember, Mr Martin is only a farmer — he is not your equal or mine. If you married him, I could never visit you,’ said Emma.
Harriet’s letter was written and sent. She was a little quiet all evening and once she said she hoped Mr Martin and his sisters were not too sad. Emma tried to help her and started talking about Mr Elton again.
‘We shall see him tomorrow, Harriet. He will come into this room and look at your picture again, and sigh as he always does when he sees it.’
Harriet smiled and became happier.
When Mr Knightley and Emma were in the gardens at Hartfield the next day he spoke to her about Harriet.
‘I congratulate you, Emma. She was always a pretty girl but you have taught her a lot. I think your friend may get some news today that will make her happy.’
Emma thought at first that Mr Elton might have said something to Mr Knightley but then he continued.
‘Robert Martin asked my opinion of her, was she too young to marry? Was it too soon to ask her? I advised him to ask. He’s very much in love with her.’
‘He has already asked,’ said Emma,’ and she has refused him.’
‘What? She is a very foolish girl. Are you sure?’
‘ Of course, I saw her answer.’
Mr Knightley became angry with her.
‘Saw it! You mean you wrote it! I think this was your idea, Emma.’
‘It was not, but I believe that, although he is a very pleasant young man, he is not Harriet’s equal.’
‘Harriet Smith has no family and no money.This was a good match for her. Until she met you, she thought of nothing better for herself, but you have filled her head with ideas of high society and of how beautiful she is. She was happy enough with the Martins in the summer.’
Emma was unhappy because he was so angry with her, but she would not agree that she had been wrong.
‘Now she knows what gentlemen are, she sees him differently. Now she is looking for something better.’
‘Remember, Emma, sensible men do not want silly wives. Harriet may not have another chance to marry,’ he replied. He started to walk away from her.
‘And if you were thinking of Mr Elton for Harriet, it will not work. He is a good vicar and a good man but he will look for money and good family in a wife.’
Emma laughed. ‘I am not trying to make a match for Harriet with Mr Elton,’ she said, hoping that Mr Knightley would stop being angry and stay.
‘Believe me, Emma, Mr Elton will choose sensibly,’ he said over his shoulder. ‘Good morning to you.’